In the last few weeks I have looked at a number of options for both self employment and setting up a business. But before we go any further, let’s get a clear idea of just what kinds of business are there out there! So this week we’ll briefly examine the following types of business:
Manufacturing Wholesale Retail Agriculture/horticulture Business services Personal services Leisure Mail order Internet
Don’t worry, I don’t intend to get too technical here – neither do I want to bore you with too many dry facts. But a clear overview of a subject never comes in wrong. So here goes….
Manufacturing, as its name implies, involves making things to sell. The steps include the design of the product, sourcing and purchasing the raw materials, acquiring the tools or equipment needed to work the raw materials, obtaining suitable premises for the task, employing and training staff to use the tools or equipment to make the products and finding someone to buy sufficient quantities of the stuff to make the whole thing viable.
The benefits are that, if the product is a success, you just ‘ramp up’ production to meet demand and bank the profits. The downside is the cost of setting all this up in the beginning and the potential costs associated with keeping things going during a downturn. It also takes a lot of looking after. It can also be very difficult selling large quantities of products whilst keeping the manufacturing process going. This is where the next type of business comes into its own….
The function of the wholesale business is to buy large quantities of goods from the manufacturer and then sell them on in smaller quantities to retail outlets – after adding a profit on to the price. The advantage of being a wholesaler is that you don’t have to invent new products all the time. You just look for products from manufacturers that you think will sell well in the marketplace and negotiate a price that lets you sell them on at a profit. You do, however, have to identify a good market for these products as you need to sell in quantity to make your money.
The costs associated involve large warehouses to store the high volumes of goods coming from the manufacturers. Packaging equipment and staff to re-package the goods into smaller lots to sell on are also required, as is transportation to the customer and sales, admin and accounting staff to look after that side of the business. Wholesalers generally buy from a number of manufacturers in order to provide their retail customers with a wide variety of goods. Their job is to keep retailers stocked with saleable goods that the public will buy.
These are the businesses that ultimately sell products to the public. Larger ones will buy direct from the manufacturer and may even suggest product ideas. The typical small retailer, however, relies on one or more wholesaler to supply a good range of products to appeal to the customer. The majority of retailers sell to the general public, consumers like you and me. Some specialise in selling appropriate products to businesses e.g. stationery and office supplies, office machinery, computers etc.
Retailers need somewhere to sell from. It may be a shop or a market stall, or it may be via mail order or even a website on the internet. In some cases they may use a mobile shop or take their goods to craft fairs, flea markets etc. The aim being to put themseolves in front of as many potential customers as possible.
The primary industry in any civilisation is the production of food. Agriculture these days is big business involving huge farms producing staple crops. However, there is still room for the small holder specialising in home grown or even organic produce. Horticulture on the other hand, is more about cultivating and propogating a wide variety of plants, many of which are sold to garden centres etc.
Modern agriculture is heavily mechanised, though horticulture can be quite labour intensive. One requires a heavy investment in machinery and the other in experienced plantsmen and women.
Both need a significant amount of land to create a worthwhile and profitable business.
THE SERVICE INDUSTRIES
The above areas of business focus on the provision of products, tangible items that can be seen, touched and even heard. Whether large or small, permanent or consumable they are inherently physical. They comprise society’s primary and secondary industries. The third wave is more recent but shows more dynamic growth than the others – it is the service sector.
As business has grown over the years, a whole range of ancillary businesses have developed to service the needs of the modern business. Everything from accounting and secretarial services to photocopier and computer maintenance to specialist advisers and consultants. From the supply and laundering of towells for the washroom to lunch meeting caterers to business trainers and many, many more have sprung up to help business managers to avoid the peripheral areas and focus on their core business.
Basically anything that can help a business owner or manager to build and develop the business or that can take away a time consuming or unwanted chore or distraction, can be built up into a business services business. What’s more, if the service genuinely helps in any of the indicated ways, there will be no shortage of managers ready and willing to pay the price.
In our busy, hectic and stressful society, there is more opportunity than ever before to make money from providing valuable personal services. From traditional areas such as nannies, hairdressers, manicurists etc. to the more modern services such as personal trainers, health gurus and even personal shoppers, there appears to be no area of life (or at least very few) that has not produced a personal service business.
In fact, personal and business services have been among the growth areas of the latter half of the 20th century and are set to be one of the driving forces of the 21st! As more people put increasing value on their time, their appearance and their lifestyle so the personal service industry will continue to provide lucrative business opportunities. Even the traditional domestic servant is making a comeback, though in a form unrecognisable to those of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Whatever the service, if you can imagine it and provide it well – someone, somewhere will buy it!
LEISURE and HOSPITALITY
While personal and business services have grown enormously the explosion has been in the leisure industry. Clubs, bars, hotels, restaurants, theme parks, leisure centres, health spas, resorts, cafes, amusement arcades, golf courses, gambling casinos, sport, travel… You name it, we’ve got it and it just keeps growing and changing. Lifestyle and leisure the driving force for the 21st century? Who knows! If you think it sounds like fun, it can be, but it can also be very exhausting.
Mail order had its origins in a number of places. It set out to deliver goods to those people who did not have access to them or couldn’t afford them. Settlers in the Australian outback and pioneers of the new frontiers of the USA were able to buy their needs without travelling many miles to do so. In British industrial towns a shilling a week could buy items from catalogues that could not be bought outright from the local shops & stores. Later, the sheer convenience of mail order helped it to grow. Now there is very little that cannot be bought by mail order.
The new kid on the block! The World Wide Web. Forecasts for the amount of future business to be done on-line are astronomical! Already fortunes have been made in the dot com boom and as readily lost in the great dot com crash! Like any new industry, and make no mistake, this is an industry in its own right – maybe even the new 4th wave, the internet has had and will continue to have its teething troubles. I’m told that the great money spinners on-line are sex and gambling – nothing new here then! But close behind, in my experience, is the “Get Rich Quick” brigade. We saw them (and still do) in the mail order field, but that was nothing compared to the phenominal explosion of “how to make money on the internet” books and courses or on-line Multi-Level Marketing schemes.
Some people claim you can sell anything on-line, I have an open mind. Time will tell what will sell best and what will not sell at all on-line. This one is in its infancy – that means there are bags of opportunities out there, but beware there are also pitfalls. Everything is unproven, it changes daily and the sharks are out in force. Take a chance, but also take care.
I’ve tried or checked out all of the above. From a freedom perspective my vote goes to the last two. In future issues I shall tell you why.
I hope this has given you a clear but simple overview of the business market place.
Until next time, have a great week
PS – Don’t forget to post your comments (or criticisms!) as well as anything to do with business or freedom that you would like to see in the newsletter. If you have any hints or tips to share with your fellow subscribers postthem too.